The final judgments are in and The Tournament of Books winner has been crowned. It was a close match, 11-6, and my vote ended up going to the winner. Go check it out. (And read both of these books, they’re great.)
I was ruminating a bit about the Pulitzer Prize this week and wondering why it isn’t a bigger deal. The bookstore I worked at in Los Angeles may not be indicative of national trends, but while I was there, the Booker Prize and the National Book Award moved more books than the Pulitzer. (The Nobel Prize had a bigger impact on sales than all the other awards combined, believe it or not.) I think part of the reason that the Pulitzer fails to capture the interest of readers is that it’s much less controversial than other awards. Pulitzer winners are almost always safe picks. But part of it, I think, is that the award has no build up. The judges do not announce the nominees (aka the shortlist) in advance, instead the finalists are revealed at the same time as the winner. It’s pretty obvious that having a shortlist would build interest – some might say artificially – by placing the prize in the public eye for longer. But I’d argue that the Pulitzer is worthy of this treatment. Though the picks are often safe, taken together, the Pulitzer winners are an incomplete, but still compelling bunch of books. The Pulitzers are primarily a journalism award, and that, I think, matters too, in that it allows us to equate the novel with journalism, which, at its best, is meant to be a noble and unfrivolous pursuit. (And this isn’t just the J-school grad in me talking.) Finally, giving the Pulitzer a shortlist would just be more fun and it would give us book bloggers more to natter on about.Previously: Excerpts and links for the Pulitzer winners and finalists.
The Booker Prize has whittled down its longlist to an intriguing shortlist, and none of the authors tapped has previously won the Prize. As was the case in prior years, two Americans make the shortlist this year: Paul Beatty and Ottessa Moshfegh. They are joined by the UK’s Graeme Macrae Burnet and Deborah Levy, and Canadians David Szalay and Madeleine Thien. The bookies suggest that Levy, the only author remaining to have previously landed on a shortlist, is the favorite to win.
All the Booker Prize shortlisters are below (with bonus links where available):
The Sellout by Paul Beatty (The Inanity of American Plutocracy: On Paul Beatty’s The Sellout)
Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh (Ottessa Moshfegh’s Year in Reading)
All That Man Is by David Szalay
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
So, it wasn’t Philip Roth, Amos Oz, Joyce Carol Oates, Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood, or Thomas Pynchon. Instead the honor has gone to Doris Lessing, a British writer who has explored themes of social issues and dabbled in science fiction. She debuted in 1950 with The Grass is Singing and has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times, for Briefing for a Descent into Hell in 1971, The Sirian Experiments in 1981 and The Good Terrorist in 1985 (two out of three of which are now out of print, though likely not for long). Lessing’s most recent book is The Cleft, which came out in August. And, though I’m no Lessing expert, her most notable work is thought to be The Golden Notebook from 1962. Interestingly, dating back to my bookstore days, out of all the major literary awards – the National Book Award, the Booker, and the Pulitzer – only the Nobel reliably drove significant interest. On the day the prize was announced, customers on the phone and in person would descend on the store, occasionally leading to problems when a relative unknown with little in print, like Imre Kertesz or Elfriede Jelinek, won the award.Bonus Links: The curious can dig into articles on Lessing and reviews of her work dating back to 1984 at the New York Times; much of Lessing’s copious output is available at Amazon.
With the unveiling of the Booker Prize longlist, the 2012 literary Prize season is officially underway. As is usually the case, the list offers a mix of exciting new names, relative unknowns and beloved standbys. The lone past winner (for Wolf Hall, the prequel to her current longlister) is Hilary Mantel. At the other end of the experience spectrum, four debut novelists make the list: Rachel Joyce, Alison Moore, Jeet Thayil and Sam Thompson.
All the Booker Prize longlisters are below (with excerpts where available):
The Yips by Nicola Barker (review)
The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman (review)
Philida by André Brink (publisher synopsis)
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (review)
Skios by Michael Frayn (excerpt, review)
The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (excerpt, review)
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (excerpt, review)
Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (excerpt 1, excerpt 2, review)
The Lighthouse by Alison Moore
Umbrella by Will Self (YouTube video of author reading)
Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil (Millions review, excerpt)
Communion Town by Sam Thompson (review)
By now you’ve read the result, Toni Morrison’s A Mercy edged out Tom Piazza’s City of Refuge to win The Tournament of Books. Now, if I were a betting man, and it were possible to bet on the Pulitzer winner, I’d bet on A Mercy. Why? The Tournament of Books has called the Pulitzer winner the last two years running. In 2008, Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao took home the Pulitzer on the heels of the Rooster. And in 2007, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road saw its Pulitzer win presaged by not just a Rooster, but also its unlikely companion, an Oprah’s book club pick. On April 20th, we’ll see if the Rooster still has the jump on America’s oldest literary prize.
The National Book Critics Circle winners have been announced. The big winner, of course, is Kiran Desai who follows up her Booker win with another big prize for her mantle. Here they are, with excerpts:Fiction: The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai – excerptNon-Fiction: Rough Crossings by Simon Schama – excerptAutobiography: The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn – excerptBiography: James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips – excerptPoetry: Tom Thomson In Purgatory by Troy Jollimore – poemCriticism: Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences by Lawrence Weschler – excerptSee also: More details at the NBCC blog.